The story of the Maharaja and Rolls Royce

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Anupama Nair

From time immemorial, the Indian Subcontinent was ruled by great kings and queens like Purushottam, Chandra Gupta Maurya, Ashoka, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Rana Pratap, Shivaji Maharaj, Rani Lakshmi Bai and many others. Today’s story is about the great Maharaja of Alwar, Jai Singh, who used the world famous British-made car Rolls Royce as garbage vehicles and that too at the height of the British Empire, ‘where the sun never sets’! Incredible isn’t it, well it is true. Read on…

First let me tell you about the kingdom of Alwar, which is now in the state of Rajasthan. The ancient name of Alwar is Salva or Salwa. In the Later Vedic Period, the Salva is described as a non-Vedic kingdom which occupied Kurukshetra and conquered the Kuru Kingdom. The Salvas then settled along the Yamuna river and the Alwar province after attacking the Kurus and they later accepted the Vedic culture by the end of the Vedic era as they united with the remaining Kurus and the Surasena Mahajanapada, near the kingdom of Matsyas.

From time to time, a different Rajput sub-clan came to rule Alwar. The Maratha Empire also ruled this region for a short period. The foundation of the kingdom of Alwar was laid by a Rajput, Pratap Singh, who took the Alwar Fort from the Jat Raja of Bharatpur.

Rolls Royce had a very simple origin. This legendary brand finds its roots in Henry Royce's electrical and mechanical business, that was started in 1884 and went on to become a car manufacturing company in 1906. Royce made his first car in 1904, and was soon introduced to Charles Rolls, a proprietor of a car dealership company. Royce's car-making skills along with Rolls' business acumen resulted in Rolls-Royce Limited, a car manufacturing company inaugurated on March 15, 1906. It was called the Spirit of Ecstasy, as it features a woman leaning forward with her arms stretched behind her and a surging cloth runs from her arms to her back, resembling wings. However, Rolls-Royce started its association with India via the country's aerospace sector in 1932, when Tata Aviation Services, launched its first aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Gipsy engines and soon after the Indian Air Force took to the skies in 1933, powered by Bristol Jupiter engines.

Did you know that before the First World War more than twenty thousand Rolls Royce were built and almost 20 percent were shipped to India. There were almost 230 Indian Maharajas and who had around 2000 Rolls Royce in India. Owning a Rolls Royce used to be a pride. A famous king from Alwar, used to buy three cars at a time. In 1920, Maharaja of Alwar, Jai Singh was walking around the streets of Mayfair, London. He was not wearing Royal Robes and he walked into a showroom of Rolls Royce. However, a British salesman ignored the Maharaja as he thought he was just an ordinary poor Indian.

King Jai Singh couldn’t take this humiliation and soon returned to his hotel room. He then asked his servants to the call the showroom and tell them that King of Alwar was going to buy few of their cars. After that, all the salesmen in the showroom were lined up to honor the King’s visit and a red carpet was rolled out in the showroom. Then the King visited the showroom with his royal appearance. At that time there were six cars present in the showroom, the King purchased all the six cars at a time. He paid the full amount including the delivery charges.

Once, all the six Rolls Royce had been transported to India, the Maharaja ordered the Municipality to use these cars to sweep the streets of the city. He also asked them to use these cars to collect and transport garbage from every corner of the city. The news spread all over the world and the numero uno car manufacturer Rolls Royce was in total shock. Their reputation and revenue dropped rapidly. Rolls Royce had to send a telegram apologizing for their behavior to the Indian King Jai Singh. They also offered six more brand new cars free of cost. The king then asked the Municipality and others to stop using the Rolls Royce for collecting garbage, he also accepted their apologies.

The moral of the story is even if you are the best brand in the world, you need to treat your customer as king.


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